Kyle McMurrich can hardly believe his good fortune as a member of the Hanford boys soccer team.
The junior defender was a part of a Falcons team that won just three games over the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined.
It’s safe to say that McMurrich suffered more than his fair share of losing.
He’d rather do some celebrating, the same way he and his Hanford teammates exalted in the Falcons’ 1-0 (6-5 shootout) victory over visiting Richland after 90 minutes of scoreless regulation Saturday.
When Hanford’s Will Bishop drilled his eighth-round spot kick into the back right corner of the net to clinch the win, his teammates surrounded him not only to commemorate the win, but also to revel in the team’s recent success under coach Mike Pardini.
It was the Falcons’ second shootout win over the Bombers this year, the first being a 2-1 victory at Bomber Field in mid-March.
“We expected Richland to come out hard. They’re strong and powerful,” McMurrich said.
Asked what the key is to Hanford’s sudden ascension to the front of the Mid-Columbia Conference pack (though the Falcons are tied for first with Kennewick at 6-2), McMurrich replied, “Maturity. We’ve got a lot of club players on the team. (Pardini) has really helped us get our minds set.”
It also helps to have a strong goalkeeper, and the Falcons have one of the best around in Jacob Thiel, who made six saves in regulation and stopped three kicks in the shootout.
But he was supported by a strong back line of McMurrich, Kelly Smith, Nick Carlson and Michael Parkman.
“It’s tough to isolate one individual today,” Pardini said. “We always want to win every game. Our goal is to get the No. 1 seed, but there’s not much disparity in the league.”
Hanford (7-3 overall, 6-2 MCC) stayed tied with Kennewick (8-2, 6-2) atop the league standings, while the Bombers (6-3, 5-3) dropped into a three-way tie for third place, joining Pasco and Kamiakin.
Richland played an aggressive first half, outshooting Hanford 8-2. The Bombers managed several chances, but the Falcons got the best opportunity in the closing minutes of the first half. Mario Zarate slotted a ball up the right hash to Bishop, who then dribbled toward Richland goalkeeper Damian Ruiz with the defender a step behind. But Bishop’s shot curled wide left to keep the board blank.
The Bombers got a few good opportunities, too, but none better than Austin Herrick’s chip shot on the Falcons goal in the 58th minute. The ball bounced off the right post, away from oncoming midfielder Jonathan Larson, before Thiel smothered it in front of the net.
Herrick, the MCC scoring leader with eight goals, seemed frustrated at times with a loosely officiated game that featured a lot of physical contact but few calls. Richland coach Octavio DoValle said that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“Officiating is like the weather. Sometimes you have to play with the wind,” DoValle said after a particularly gusty day. “The only person I blame is me.“Can we beat any team in the league? Yeah. Can they beat us? Yeah. The weak part of our game (penalty kicks) gave way today.”
Herrick humbly accepted the loss, but he still believes that the Bombers are a team that can get things done.
“We always feel like the better team. I thought we were coming in for redemption, but we didn’t come out on top,” Herrick said.
Both teams made their first-round shots in the shootout but missed in Rounds 2 and 3. Thiel stopped shots from Larsen and Nicolas Reyes, while Damian Ruiz dove to save Nick Carlson’s second-round attempt before Jacob Bogen’s third-round shot sailed wide right.
Richland hit its next four shots before Thiel tracked a shot off the foot of Xavier Acuna and leaped to tip it over the bar in the eighth round. That set the stage for Bishop.
Shootout goals (Hanford 6-5)—R, Austin Herrick, James Olsen, Anders Lauridsen, David Banks, Kevin Garza. H, Mario Zarate, Kelly Smith, Joseph Ghirardo, Eduardo Barajas, Kyle McMurrich, Will Bishop. Shots—R 15, H 13. Saves—R, Damian Ruiz 8. H, Jacob Thiel 6.